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Some roles become so iconic that it’s difficult to think of anybody else playing them. Often times, however, there are other actors considered for those rolls who could potentially have changed drastically the way those characters are remembered. Such would have been the case if Will Smith had accepted the lead role Django Unchained. We know the film would be remembered very differently if Smith had played the part, because Smith only would have done it if it was a very different movie.
Back in 2011, Will Smith was the rumored front runner for the role of Django. Eventually, the role went to Jamie Foxx and not much was ever heard again from Smith on the subject. The Hollywood Reporter recently asked Smith about the part and the actor was more than clear that he wanted the role, but he and director Quentin Tarantino could not agree on the tone of the film. While Smith calls the script a "perfect story," in the end Smith saw the movie as a love story and he thought the film should ultimately be about the love between Django and his wife.
I wanted to make that movie so badly, but I felt the only way was, it had to be a love story, not a vengeance story. I don’t believe in violence as the reaction to violence. So when I’m looking at that, it’s like: 'No, no, no. It has to be for love.' We can’t look at what happens in Paris [the terrorist attacks] and want to fuck somebody up for that. Violence begets violence. So I just couldn’t connect to violence being the answer. Love had to be the answer.
To say the least, this would have made for a very different movie. That actually is something of an understatement. Not to say it wouldn't have been a great movie, but it would not have been the same. It also would have been a strange film to see Quentin Tarantino make. Say what you will about his movies, but the man uses violence artistically in his films. It’s hard to see Django Unchained as anything else but a revenge story.
Interestingly, the one other time that Will Smith has spoken about why he did not take the role, it had nothing to do with the amount of violence in the film. In fact, Smith's comments at the time were actually in regards to violence that Django did not commit, that Smith thought he should have. These more-recent comments are not entirely in opposition to those, but they are a very different way of looking at Tarantino's film.
So, Django Unchained, love conquers all. Would that have been a better movie starring Will Smith than the one we saw, or is Tarantino’s vision perfect the way it is?